A busy bar-cafe just outside of old street station, as soon as you walk in, the atmosphere is lively. Most times I walk past, it always seems to be this way and on the whole, all Grind bars I have walked past are lovely to look at and draw you in. This specific Grind was actually the first of the 9 in its chain, opening in 2011 and has since become a statement piece for the Old Street roundabout with its ever changing 60’s cinema style signage. An interesting fact about this place is it has international-grade recording studio upstairs, where Sam Smith, FKA Twigs, Pixie Lott and Tinie Tempah to name a few have written and recorded. Behind the scenes, or above the scenes, it’s much more than you would expect! A nice amount of seating is available for the size of the cafe, there is also pretty much the same again outside which is perfect for warmer days.
There are 3 window benches to maximise seating, spanning all window space. Most of these seats do have sockets so it’s the perfect place to plug in and get working while also being able to look out and people watch. Grind, I have noticed, love their neon lights and most of their locations have lyrics or phrases in neon on the walls. ‘Espresso bar’ is a recurring neon sign that’s in the window of most of them and I love their Covent Garden location which has David Bowie’s Heroes lyric. ‘Cocktails baby?’ is the one behind the bar in Shoreditch and is always good at tempting. With a regular cafe menu and also an alcoholic menu, you can go there in any mood, there’s also an ample selection of coffee cocktails that are definitely acceptable as business with pleasure (right?). This is the perfect sociable place for working and drinking great coffee — and when you’re all done, you can kick back with a tasty cocktail while winding down for the day.
The Hoxton Shoreditch
The original Hoxton is in Shoreditch and is a wonderful place to settle down and work. It has a understated exterior that contrasts with what’s going on inside. You almost wouldn’t know what to expect when walking in if the name didn’t have the status it does in London and several other cities such as Amsterdam and Paris. The Hoxton are known for their chic, Instagrammable interiors and classic style. Large doors and high ceilings are the first feature you see after walking through the main doorway. Straight away you are greeted by a seating area in front of a large, metal structured bookcase, spanning 1/2 of the room with walkways either side to go to the restaurant or further working areas. The main work area is a beautiful open space with relaxed seating and coffee tables dotted around the lobby area. There is also more of an upright/table and chair area, behind the previously mentioned bookcase, for those who like a more conventional work space. An array of mix match large arm chairs and leather sofas are paired with low wooden tables with iron structures, they have an industrial look that works beautifully. Limited amounts of plug sockets are available by these chairs so you do need to get a seat by a wall for these. Lots of cushions are provided for comfort and there are two fireplaces, both burning at each side of the room. Perfect for the rest of this cold winter snap.
There is table service where staff will greet you and take your order within 5 minutes of sitting, they are very good at letting you get on with your work and only coming over if you catch their eye. Tea and coffee are a very reasonable price between £2 and £3 and there is a wonderful selection of smoothies and presses for £4-7. Of course, free WiFi is available and a good strength, it also doesn’t give you never ending connect/log in pop ups! The atmosphere is extremely relaxing — it makes you feel like you’re in a grown up chill out area. Elaborate features such as the large circular lights that hang above two of the work areas elevate this feeling even more. There’s a mild chatty vibe around the sofa areas with a little more noise filtering in from the restaurant area and mellow music sounds throughout, if you wear headphones this is cancelled out with no problem. The Hoxton Shoreditch is somewhere where you feel comfortable to stay any time from a short drink to a longer work session or a meeting. This definitely would be one of my favourite places to work and I recommend it to anyone who appreciates a well designed interior.
Forge & Co
Forge & Co is a large open plan grill and lounge bar on the downstairs floor and you can tell that is is definitely more of an integrated eatery and drinks rather than people working in one area and eating in another. They show on their website that on the two floors above, there are dedicated workspace areas with meeting rooms and also places to work as an individual. I spent my time in the downstairs area on this occasion, where the sofas seem to fill up more than the other areas apart from at peak times with people eating. An urban interior with framed artworks filling up the space on the longest wall, painted brickwork on the bottom half and large windows taking up the upper half. The large window panes and exposed metal frames on these windows make the space feel bigger, and even though you can’t watch people walking past, they look out to the taller buildings and sky outside which can be quite nice also. Again, I would definitely say the bottom floor is less for working on serious business and more for meetings or chilling out and working sparingly. I have noticed that unfortunately there aren’t many plugs for charging along the main working stretch so if you’re after a longer session, definitely look to go on the upper floors!
The bathroom in Forge & Co are definitely worth a mention in this review, you might have even seen photos people have posted online and this is where they’re from. A peacock feather print covers the basins in the female toilets with a bright yellow metal structure holding up the marble unit they are set into. A striking teal colour is on the walls also, making the room look dreamy and perfect for that mirror photo opportunity (I can’t vouch for the men’s unfortunately but I’m sure they are probably the same). A good place to visit if you like to be able to treat yourself to a burger or steak in-between working, or want to use a more focussed work only area upstairs.
A cosy, green cafe just a 5 minute walk from Old Street station. Plants everywhere which I absolutely adore, they will literally draw me towards any shop or cafe. I am someone that feels that having greenery around a space can completely change my mood. I didn’t buy 9 different plants for my bedroom because of a whim, they produce oxygen and also are the perfect decor. If you are a plant lover, you know what I mean and this is the place for you. There are plants on shelves and there is a home grown, plant drenched wall which is definitely the focal point of the cafe. This, along with a large assortment of potted plants hanging from a large metal structure on the ceiling. The furniture in this cafe is well thought out, with a combination of well designed rustic high chairs, wooden panel benches and hanging lamps as their light source.
I’m sure the music genre changes from day to day, they had a relaxing hip hop type of music playing while I was there — I wouldn’t call myself a huge hip hop person usually however this was completely different in the setting and worked really well. Table service is available and the staff are very polite, greeting you as soon as you enter and wishing you a good day when you leave. I found this to be a really nice space to work in, with quite a few people dotted around, working on their laptops all over the cafe. I set up in a nice partially sectioned off bit at the back which was a quiet little space to really focus on what I was doing. Attendant has a window table too but with a limited amount of seats — again, I absolutely love when cafes have this feature. The perfect place if you’re a plant lover and enjoy fresh oxygen and a nice range of cookies and brownies to eat while you work.
The Ace Hotel
Another workspace filled with varying leather armchairs / sofas in the downstairs area of the Ace Hotel. As another superior hotel in the heart of Shoreditch, with other hotels in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and more, the basic prices for this hotel start at around £150 per night. The reason I’m mentioning the price is that I really love hotels like The Ace Hotel and The Hoxton. They have a great work environment and allow freelancers or passing guests who want to come and sit and work, to do just that. Nothing is expected of us and we can stay as long as we please, all you need to do is buy a drink or two, food, anything from the bar and you’re good to stay. It’s a wonderful gesture that even without paying for a room, you are allowed to use this amenity. Large, almost floor length windows take up the whole exterior wall, allowing light to flood in — especially great on a sunny day where even if you are stuck working, you can enjoy the weather. The bathrooms as you can see below are a modern, stripped back monotone style (can you tell I like well designed bathrooms yet?).
Come night time (or 5pm at the moment), relaxing orange toned lights, dotted around the ceiling give ambiance to the working area and allow you to carry on without feeling under the spotlight. Throughout the area, this is the atmosphere and is perfect for working on a laptop or tablet. The Ace Hotel also has a communal, long table with a lamp centrepiece that stretches through the length for those who require a little more light. While visiting on this occasion, I actually didn’t receive any table service in the area I was, so I am unable to tell if they give table service for the sofas. But, I was able to just crack on and able to head up to the bar when I required food or drink which was totally okay too. A great place for a relaxed working environment with lots of comfy chairs and a peaceful day of work.